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Morton v. Vanderbilt University

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

April 17, 2015

TRACY MORTON, on behalf of Herself and All Others Similarly Situated, Plaintiff,
v.
THE VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM

KEVIN H. SHARP, District Judge.

The parties have tentatively settled this class action under the Worker Adjustment and Restraining Notification Act ("WARN Act"), 29 U.S.C. ยง 2101 et seq ., subject to resolution of the following question:

When did the 279 Vanderbilt University employees who received notice on or about September 17, 2013, that their jobs would be eliminated on November 16, 2013, suffer an "employment loss" within the meaning of the WARN Act?

That question is presented in the context of Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, which is based upon undisputed facts. For the reasons that follow, the Court finds that the employment loss occurred on September 17, 2013, and, therefore, Defendant's Motion will be denied.

I. Facts

For purposes of Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, the parties have stipulated to the following facts:

1. Between approximately September 17 and 19, 2013, Vanderbilt met with 279 employees and provided them with individualized letters notifying them that their positions would be eliminated 60 days following the date of their notification.

2. The letters stated that the employees' positions would be eliminated in 60 days on November 16, 2013, that they would "remain employed" but be on a "paid leave" for the 60-day period, and that they were no longer required to report to work and could use the 60-day leave period to seek other employment. The only difference in the letters the employees received relates to the separation benefits for which the employees would be eligible.

3. On September 17, 2013, Vanderbilt sent a letter to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development giving notice of reductions in force at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

4. Vanderbilt provided the supervisors, who would inform the employees that their jobs were being eliminated, with training materials.

5. Vanderbilt Human Resources prepared and disseminated written training or guidance materials to those notifying the employees of the elimination of their positions. These written materials were entitled "A Guide for Leaders" with at least three subtitles: (1) "Workforce Restructuring and Reduction in Force (RIF);" (2) "Leading through the Transition: Managing Stress for You and Your Employees;" and (3) "Questions & Answers for Managers to Use in E2E RIF Discussions."[1]

6. Additionally, these employees were told they should gather their personal belongings and return all Vanderbilt property (identification badges, laptop computers, cell phones and pagers, etc.). They were then taken to meet with someone to discuss career transition counseling, following which, they were to leave campus.

7. For any employees who did not have transportation, Vanderbilt provided pre-paid taxi vouchers following the career counseling.

8. These employees' Vanderbilt identification cards and email accounts were typically deactivated on the same day that the employees were informed of Vanderbilt's decision to eliminate their positions.

9. These employees were told not to return to work and that it would be inappropriate to come to their ...


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